On the Job with John from Coles

John graduated from University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Law, and was admitted as a lawyer in NSW before joining Coles as a retail operations graduate in 2015.
Lynn Elsey
Lynn Elesy
Team GradAustralia
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John Milne is a store manager for Coles 

  • 2009 Bachelor of Business (Marketing), University of Newcastle 
  • 2011 Bachelor of Law, Diploma of Legal Practice, University of Newcastle 
  • 2012 Admitted as a lawyer, New South Wales 
  • 2015 Joins Coles as a retail operations graduate 
  • 2015 Store manager for St Leonards 

Why were you interested in joining Coles? 

I wanted a career in store management. I worked at the Coles store in Kimcumber for five years, so I was familiar with the organisation. 

Your “graduation” to store manager was really quick, how did you do it? 

I took advantage of what was given to me, including caretaking departments and projects. I said “yes” to as many things as I could, including tasks outside the normal structure and timetable. As I had worked with Coles prior to joining the program, I already knew quite a lot about the business and the different departments. 

The graduate program normally runs for two years, with rotations through different areas. I started in February and became a store manager in October. 

Pluses of the program? 

Working in different stores meant that I worked with different managers and teams. Having this exposure early on helped me develop the confidence to walk into a new store and take it from there. 

Any unanticipated elements? 

The pace; I wasn’t expecting it to be so full on. The range of opportunities available to graduates also surprised me. 

Biggest challenges? 

Going to a new store is always a challenge, but also a part of being a store manager in the future. 

Difference between being a grad and a store manager? 

Now I really am accountable for everything. There is more pressure; the ‘buck’ really does stop with me. 

If you were a student again, what would you have done differently? 

More exposure to leadership. I always wanted to be a manager and lead teams and was preparing for that. But it would have been nice to have been more prepared to bridge the gap between a supervisory role and heading an entire business – I now manage a team of around 60 and a $25 million business. 

Best bits of your job? 

It’s fun running a business that turns over $25 million a year with 32,000 customers a week. I enjoy working with other people and helping them become better at what they do. I try and help others along that journey, including mentoring graduates. 

Any advice for students? 

Be a bit selfish with your career goals and aspirations. Take advantage of opportunities but make sure they benefit you. So, say “yes” to things but be bold enough to ask what you are going to get out of it. It not only helps you but also shows others that you take your career seriously. 

Future plans? 

In the short term I have specific goals related to the store I am managing. Longer term, I would like to coach others and eventually become